Wollongong Hospital will be the proud new owner of a PET scanner by December with the first patients set to access the $2.5 million machine by January 2014.
That’s the word from Healthcare Imaging Services, the private operator selected to run the machine which detects cancers and heart and brain disease faster and more accurately than other imaging technology.
Healthcare Imaging Services national business development manager for nuclear medicine and PET Matt Ayers said the private/public partnership represented a ‘‘remarkable and fabulous opportunity’’ for the people of the region.
‘‘The PET [positron emission tomography] scanner we’ve purchased is a very complex piece of machinery...and has the highest [specifications] of its kind in Australia,’’ Mr Ayers said.
‘‘We’ve spent over $2.5million on the PET scanner and the fit-out for the room will be in the vicinity of $1million so it’s a major financial commitment.
‘‘We’re in for the long haul and are looking forward to providing this service for the people of the Illawarra and Shoalhaven and surrounds.’’
Mr Ayers said the company had ordered the scanner three weeks ago through Philip Healthcare and it was on its way from Cleveland, Ohio in the United States.
‘‘We’re expecting it in the country by early December allowing for the building works to proceed within Wollongong Hospital to allow us to build the PET department, so we’re still on track for the service to commence from mid to late January,’’ he said.
‘‘The scanner uses positrons, a form of radiation like x-ray and gamma-rays. We detect these positrons and the cancer is highlighted in the body.
‘‘Because it’s a very high energy particle we have to have a very complex department design. We either use concrete or in this case, because of space limitations, we’re using lead lining to protect the operators and other staff and patients.’’
Mr Ayers said the company was working with the hospital and engineers on the structural design of the department to take into account the weight of the lead.
A building contractor would be appointed within the next three weeks and works would then begin.
‘‘The machine will predominantly be used for the diagnosis and the monitoring of cancer,’’ he said.
‘‘There are some applications for the heart and for the brain but unfortunately at the moment the Medicare benefit schedule only recognises the oncology component of it.
‘‘The good thing for us and the Illawarra community is that there’ll be no out-of-pocket payments for those patients with Medicare rebate numbers.’’
Kiama MP Gareth Ward was ‘‘elated’’ that the PET scanner was on its way – on schedule, he stressed.
‘‘Wollongong Hospital’s nuclear medicine department has been preparing for this machine’s arrival, which will be installed by the end of the year,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s been an extensive commissioning process and it’s a great victory for everyone involved.’’